Has your news been framed?
In order to quickly and efficiently process large amounts of information and make sense of complex stories journalists use frames. News frames guide journalists in deciding which details of a story to select and emphasize and which to leave out or de-emphasize. Frames are usually implicit rather than explicit.
One of the most common frames is conflict. In the conflict frame reporters structure their stories around a conflict that is often portrayed as being inherent in the issue being discussed. Other standard frames for news stories include: the consensus frame which emphasizes general agreement; the reaction frame which features the reactions of one or more important people involved in the story; the wrongdoing exposed frame in which corruption or injustice is revealed; and the straight news account frame in which the reporter primarily asks the standard who, what, when, where and how questions.
While it may seem that stories lend themselves naturally to one or another frame it is worth imagining alternative frames which might have been used in the stories we read. For example, if the politicians in Washington all support going to war but a significant percentage of the general populace are ambivalent or opposed to such an action, a reporter could frame the article with a consensus frame, focusing on the agreement between Republicans and Democrats. Alternatively that reporter could give the story a conflict frame focusing on the difference of opinion between politicians and the citizens opposed to the war. The picture that emerges is likely to be quite different depending on the frame chosen.
Finally, it is worth noting that there are often frames within frames. For example, when the overall frame is conflict, an internal frame may be a multisided conflict or, alternatively, two-sided conflict.
Key Questions to keep in mind while reading the following example on Story Framing: